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Author Hopes to Help People with Depression

A Palmerston North author hopes that a new book project will help people battling depression.

Like many people in New Zealand, author and former journalist Leanne Warr has been battling depression for 30 years.

“It’s been a difficult journey,” says the Palmerston North native. “A lonely one, in many respects.”

According to health statistics published in 2017, an estimated 16 percent of the population have been diagnosed, yet Leanne says this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“How many people aren’t even aware they have it or refuse to consider it a possibility?” she says.

Despite moves by the Government to address the problem, there are many people who continue to struggle alone due to lack of support services. There have been accounts of people calling mental health services, reaching out in the hope of getting immediate help, only to be told they have to wait for an appointment.

“When you are feeling down, to the point of being suicidal, you don’t want to wait,” Leanne says. “You shouldn’t have to. This is where the system is letting a lot of people down.”

Leanne was diagnosed at the age of 17.

“It started off as anxiety attacks and got worse from there.”

She hasn’t let it stop her from achieving many goals including two degrees and working as a journalist. She has also written six novels which have been self-published under a pen name. However, she says that hasn’t helped in other ways.

“When you have this illness, you can’t see what you have achieved. All you see is what you don’t have.”

Now 47, Leanne has been in and out of work, which she says doesn’t help in her struggle. Financial stress and finding a job creates huge stressors in her life.

She doesn’t want to blame her illness but believes it is a big part of it. Writing helps her deal with it.

“That’s why this project is so important to me. I’ve been writing since I was thirteen years old and I’ve been told I’m good at it. It’s a gift I hope I can use to help others like me.”

The book, called Pathways Out of Depression, is not only about her journey with depression, but is also planned to include input from academics, psychologists and other health professionals, as well as some facts and figures which she hopes will help others with this illness to find a way to start to heal themselves.

The book is still a work-in-progress. Leanne is reaching out to others with depression and asking them to share their stories for the project.

“I want to assure them that they can remain anonymous if they wish.”
Leanne remains open about her illness but understands not everyone who has it is willing to be so open about it.

She also realises that it can create problems for many, especially in the workplace.

“Some employers feel it creates barriers and prevents people from doing their job.”

In her own experience, she has had periods of extreme stress and that has been the source of some difficulty.

“I’ve worked in jobs which I probably shouldn’t have, simply because I’ve become too stressed. Even now, when applying for jobs, I still don’t know what to answer to questions about my health and how it would affect my work. I don’t want to think that my mental health issues are to blame for being unable to get a full-time job.”

While celebrities like Sir John Kirwan and Mike King have done an amazing job in helping to raise awareness, Leanne says that in many ways it isn’t enough.

“Not everyone can relate to them or their stories and there are some who might feel that they’re using their celebrity status for their own purpose.”

She says that there are some who still believe people who have this illness are ‘attention-seeking’.

“Depression is still very much mis-understood in New Zealand. There are still people who either think it is an imaginary illness or just refuse to acknowledge it. Or else they tell them to ‘get over it’. Depression isn’t like the common cold. You can’t just go to bed and wake up the next day and be cured.”

She is setting up a crowdfunding account for people to make donations to help fund her through the year she estimates it will take to write the book and to help fund travelling to other centres to talk to various groups about the project.

“This is not just my project. It’s for everyone like me. Ordinary New Zealanders who are struggling with this illness. Who need to know that they are not alone.”

She has also set up a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/depressionpathways/ . She intends to share inspirational quotes along with information which has helped on her journey.
“Sometimes I’ll see something that really hits home or helps me see the lighter side of mental illness and I’ll post it.”

To donate to her crowdfunding account go to: https://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/pathways-out-of-depression


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